White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements 1) - Page 33

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Abbot looked over at Geoff, who muttered something under his breath.

“What?” I said, clamping my hands together between my knees. “What’s going on?”

He pinched the bridge of his nose and stood. “I think it’s time that you stop tagging.”

I started to protest, but Geoff tipped his chin up and spoke over me. “It’s obviously no longer safe for you or the clan, Layla.”

Déjà vu smacked into me, and my heart stuttered. “I didn’t get hurt—neither did Morris, not really. He doesn’t have to pick me up anymore. I can—”

“Within a handful of days, you’ve had a Seeker, a zombie and a possessed come near you. There is no such thing as a coincidence when dealing with demons. One of them almost made it to our compound, Layla.”

An image of Roth popped into my head. “Why...why do you think the demons are coming around me?”

There was a stretch of silence and Abbot said, “It appears they may have discovered your ability.” He paused, looking away. A muscle popped in his jaw. “There can’t be any other reason.”

I couldn’t really place it, and maybe it was just a bad case of paranoia, but I had a hard time believing that was all Abbot knew. There was surely more he wasn’t willing to say.

“It isn’t safe for you right now.” Geoff came closer, stopping beside Abbot. “If the demons have caught on to what you can do, you can’t tag. It’s too dangerous.”

“I know how to defend myself. Zayne taught me.”

Abbot scoffed. “Whatever my son has taught you isn’t enough to face a demon Hell-bent on taking you out, child. You no longer have the element of surprise, which is all you had. And you know that.”

I wanted to argue, but dammit, he had a point. I knew my limits, but it didn’t make any of this suck less. I slumped back against the supple leather of the couch.

“We’re going to find out what’s going on, Layla.” Abbot’s voice softened by a degree. “I know how important it is to you that you help in this war, but right now, I can’t afford to be worried about your safety. Honestly, I should pull you out of school.”

Fear seized me, and I shot to my feet, ready to beg and plead. “Please, Abbot, don’t do that. Everything is okay at school. I’m safe there and—”

“I didn’t say I was going to do it. At least not right now, but I don’t want Morris driving you anymore. One of the clansmen will.”

And that was that. I was deemed pretty much on lockdown unless I was at school or one of the Wardens was with me. Which was sort of ironic considering there was an Upper Level demon in my bio class, but now I knew beyond a doubt that if I shared that little ditty, I would end up homeschooled. Part of me understood the precaution.

I went upstairs, leaving Geoff and Abbot to do more of the hushed-conversation thing. Just as I kicked open my bedroom door, I heard the twins’ excitable squawking coming from the foyer. Turning around, I prepared myself for the sound of bounding footsteps, for Zayne to rush me and check me over for injuries I didn’t have. For him to pull me into one of those mammoth hugs that made everything feel better.

Male voices boomed from downstairs, one of them Zayne’s. Anger deepened his voice, and his father’s matched his. They weren’t arguing, but I heard Danika’s soft tone intruding, and then their voices lowered.

I waited.

There were no footsteps coming up the stairs, and the voices trailed off as they moved farther into the house, most likely underground.

A sigh escaped my lips as I stood there, still waiting for Zayne, but he never came up the stairs. He never came.

* * *

The next morning, I got up early like I did every Saturday. Sure, I was still upset over everything with Zayne, but it was Saturday morning. There had to be a reason why he never checked on me last night. Most likely Abbot had him leave the mansion immediately to help the rest of the Wardens.

We had plans—we always had plans on Saturday morning. Even with the possibility that demons were looking for me, I’d be okay because I’d be with Zayne. He was the kind of babysitter I could get behind.

And I wanted to ask Zayne about my mother. I figured I could do so without raising any suspicion and I knew he’d tell me the truth. All my life, Zayne had never lied to me. I trusted him and I knew he’d tell me I had nothing to worry about—that my mother was not the Lilith.

I waited until eight and went to his bedroom door like I always did. By then he’d already be shifting back into his human skin, opening the door any minute. But the door didn’t open at eight. Ten minutes went by. After thirty minutes, I sat down. When the clock chimed nine, I started to feel sick. What if something had happened to him? What if he was hurt or worse?

Unable to wait any longer, I pushed to my feet and raced to the first floor. Abbot wasn’t at rest yet. He was with Elijah and a few other men from the clan. I skidded to a stop in front of his study, out of breath.

Abbot lifted his head, a faint look of amusement crossing his face when he spotted me by the door. “Layla?”

Each of the men turned to look at me. Heat suffused my cheeks as I folded my arms across my chest. “Has Zayne returned?” I couldn’t ask if he’d been hurt. The words wouldn’t form on my lips.

Abbot looked puzzled for only a moment as he stroked his beard. “Oh, today is Saturday, isn’t it?”

I nodded.

“I do believe Zayne may have forgotten,” Nicolai said in his quiet way.

Elijah leaned against the door, yawning loudly. “Zayne is with Danika. She met up with us just before dawn. I heard them mention something about breakfast.”

My gaze darted to Abbot. He looked pleased by the development. Of course, he wanted Zayne to mate with the girl, so he was probably mentally cheering and already picturing bouncing babies, but I couldn’t breathe.

Stepping around the chair, Nicolai’s eyes landed on me. Sympathy shone on his face, and my heart lurched in the worst way. “Do you want to get breakfast? Or coffee?”

Elijah and his men snickered, which Nicolai ignored.

“That won’t be necessary,” Abbot said. “You need your rest, Nicolai, and Layla really shouldn’t be out after what happened last night.”

“I can spare an hour or two for the girl.” Nicolai’s expression sharpened. “It will bring no harm to anyone, and we’ll be fine.”

“How charitable,” Elijah murmured.

Humiliation brought stinging tears to my eyes. Backing away from the study’s entrance, I shook my head. “No. That’s...that’s okay.”

“But—”

I spun around, hurrying away before Nicolai could finish. Zayne had forgotten me. I couldn’t believe it. He never forgot our Saturdays. Maybe he hadn’t. Maybe he’d just replaced me with Danika, a much more suitable companion. I didn’t understand, though. He had never paid this much attention to her before.

But he was now.

I started to head toward the front door, but stopped in the foyer. Sunlight streamed in through the windows. Where could I go? Hang out in the tree house again, like a dweeb? I was stuck in this house.

Back in my bedroom, I changed back into my pajamas and crawled into bed. I didn’t want to cry. It was weak and stupid to shed tears over something like this, but my cheeks ended up feeling damp anyway and my chest ached. I curled onto my side, fisting the ring in my hand until I drifted back to sleep.


Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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